59K clients at center of escalating Raymond James fee spat
A legal fight over fees charged by Raymond James is moving to the next round thanks in part to the firm’s own detailed spreadsheets.
Judge William Dimitrouleas granted ex-client Jyll Brink’s lawsuit class action status, a motion Raymond James opposed, which could reel in nearly 59,000 current and former clients of the firm.
Brink's lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Florida mid-September against the St. Petersburg-based regional BD, accuses Raymond James & Associates of overcharging its “processing fees,” on certain accounts, sometimes by up to 10 times.
The judge’s approval follows a recent effort by Raymond James to keep the lawsuit out of the courtroom.
A spokeswoman at Raymond James declined to comment.
Brink will act as a representative for all current and former Raymond James passport account holders that have been charged a fee within the past four to five years, depending on whether the claim is for breach of contract or negligence, according to the court order.
A Florida court will hear a client’s claim that the firm charges processing fees that had ranged as high as 10 times more than the stated purpose: transaction and clearing costs.
The bank’s effort to show that the advisors violated non-solicitation agreements was “far from persuasive, never mind conclusive,” the judge ruled.
A lawyer representing Raymond James argued that it was impossible to identify whether a client or advisor had paid the processing fee, according to the order.
However, Brink’s attorney said the firm had executed over 1 million trades for nearly 59,000 account holders, citing thorough documentation from a Raymond James’ excel spreadsheet. Additionally, the attorney argued that the account holders paid for the entire processing fee themselves 94% of the time, without the help of their advisor, according to court documents.
Judge Dimitrouleas excluded a little over 2,800 of the passport account holders from the class certification, determining that a financial advisor had paid for all, or part, of the processing fee, but will include the rest of the passport account clients in the class certification.
The judge asked both sides to present proposals by Nov. 5 for a notice to all clients deemed to be class members, according to court documents.
Neither attorney in the case responded to a request for further comment on the matter.